We Can Code IT bringing software boot camp to Akron

We Can Code IT founder and CEO Mel McGee Jason Miller

We Can Code IT is coming to Akron.

The software boot camp, which has already established itself in Cleveland and Columbus, says it will start offering software development courses in Akron online this month and will have a physical presence in the city later this year.

We Can Code IT founder and CEO Mel McGee made the announcement to about 40 enthusiastic, tech-savvy supporters at an after-work event March 23 at Mustard Seed Market & Cafe in Highland Square. She was alongside her partner in the endeavor, Software Guild founder Eric Wise, who now runs Akron-based DriveIT and trains incumbent workers in advanced IT skills.

“We’re coming to Akron … and we’re very excited about it!” McGee said.

We Can Code IT will share space with DriveIT at its new headquarters on Akron’s White Pond Drive later this year, McGee and Wise said.

The two organizations have the potential for a great synergistic relationship, they say. We Can Code IT works with those new to information technology and teaches them the basic foundations of software development, while DriveIT teaches specific and specialized skills to existing IT professionals, McGee said.

The synergy likely will extend to Cleveland as well. Wise said he’s currently working on plans to co-locate DriveIT with We Can Code IT there, expanding his company’s geographic reach as well.

“We haven’t put pen to paper on it yet,” Wise said in an email correspondence. “Our plan is to move up into Cleveland in Q3/Q4.”

Wise is smart when it comes to marketing, too. He’s going to use We Can Code IT to help market DriveIT, which offers training through a model akin to a gym membership. Client companies or individuals can buy memberships per person, and then workers can attend as many classes as they like in things like cybersecurity and various other IT topics. At the same time, Wise thinks his strategy will help We Can Code IT establish itself in Akron.

“We’re going to offer $100,000 in scholarships to new We Can Code IT graduates,” Wise said.

“Any company that hires a We Can Code IT graduate, we will give that company two free training sessions for that employee to use,” Wise said.

Each session is a full course in a specialized subject and normally costs about $1,000, he added.

That will give the new hires the ability to further their technical education in areas specifically needed by their employers, Wise said. It will, of course, also introduce new companies to DriveIT.

It might not take long to hit that $100,000 threshold if We Can Code IT does as well in Akron as it has in Cleveland and Columbus. About 120 students graduate from the company’s 14-week course in each of those cities every year, McGee said.

The education does not come cheap: The course costs $12,900, McGee said. There is some financial help available for low-income students from We Can Code IT and the state of Ohio, she said, and veterans often can get a lot of assistance. But students still need to be serious and realize that a financial, as well as a personal, commitment is required to succeed.

That’s also why the courses don’t accept just anyone. McGee said all new students are tested for aptitude before they’re accepted and only about 10% of applicants are admitted.

Locally, workforce development advocates and government officials applaud both the expansion of DriveIT and the entry of We Can Code IT to the Akron market. That includes Sue Lacy, president of ConxusNEO, a workforce development agency in Summit County that seeks to match local training initiatives with the needs of area employers. Lacy said she’s been talking to McGee and her staff for more than a year, hoping they would establish operations in Akron.

“We see it as another example of the alignment of the talent ecosystem, which will be critical to us developing a world-class talent pool … with the right IT talent for companies here in Summit County,” Lacy said.

DriveIT already is growing in Akron. It just signed up both the city and the county as clients, DriveIT co-founder Ian Schwarber said.

County chief information officer Mark Petit said DriveIT’s model is a good fit for government employees.

“The training programs are not as schedule intrusive as traditional all-day classroom training,” he said. “DriveIT’s unique perspective of a gym membership enforces engagement in the learning process with social groups, interactivity, assessments and follow-up.”

Both DriveIT and We Can Code IT will continue to support each other. There’s really no competition between them, Schwarber said.

“I cannot think of a better strategic alliance than between DriveIT and We Can Code IT,” he said. “Mel’s emphasis on an inclusive program, bringing members of diverse populations into the IT space and opening up opportunities that have been traditionally filled by white males, will only enhance the culture in Northeast Ohio.”

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Shingler, Dan. (2018, April 1). We Can Code IT brings software boot camp to Akron. Crain’s Cleveland Business. Retrieved from